Mister Romance (Masters of Love #1)

By: Leisa Rayven

ONE


The Man, The Legend

When I hear the term Mister Romance drop from my sweet-but-naive baby-sister’s mouth, I’m convinced she’s been duped into believing yet another urban legend. Asha’s sitting at the breakfast bar in our small Brooklyn apartment, looking way too put together for six a.m. on a Monday morning.

I stop filling the coffeemaker and turn to her. “You’re telling me that women hire a man to make their romantic fantasies come to life? Come on, Ash. There’s no way that’s a thing.”

“It’s true!” she insists. “Joanna was dishing the dirt in the break room at work. He sets up all these amazing scenarios. You know the tropes: damaged billionaire, sexy bad boy, devoted best friend, hottie contractor. He has this whole range of characters that don’t usually exist outside of romance novels, and the word is he blows his clients’ minds. Joanna overheard a whole bunch of women talking about him last weekend at some thousand-dollar-a-ticket charity event.”

I make a scoffing noise and go back to making coffee. “What the hell was Joanna the secretary doing at that kind of event?”

“Her cousin is related to some obscure Latvian royalty or something. The crown prince’s limo broke down on the way in from the airport, so Joanna was invited at the last minute to take his ticket.”

I give my sister my best deadpan look. “Latvian royalty. Of course. Makes perfect sense.”

My sister is a junior editor at one of New York’s oldest publishing houses, and even though I haven’t met all her coworkers, the ones I have met are definitely on the strange side of quirky.

“Isn’t Joanna a compulsive liar?” I ask.

“Well, yeah, she tells some tall tales, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know stuff. One of the women talking about the über-stud claimed that a date with him cured her depression. Another said he saved her marriage, because until he showed her how sensual she could be, she’d forgotten how much she enjoyed sex. This whole gaggle of women thinks he’s their romantic savior. White-hot Jesus, or whatever.”

I shake my head and watch as coffee dribbles through the filter. Always the more imaginative out of the two of us, Asha has inherited all my mother’s blind optimism but zero common sense.

“So what you’re telling me,” I say, as I pour two cups of fresh Joe, “is that this mythical man-beast about whom Pants-On-Fire Joanna was raving, is some kind of ... what? Superhero gigolo?”

“He’s an escort,” Asha clarifies.

“Isn’t that just a fancy label for man-whore?”

“No. He doesn’t have sex with his clients.”

I pass her a cup of coffee. “You just told me he did.”

“No,” she says as she defiles her mug of hand-roasted Columbian blend with four sugars, “I said he makes their romantic fantasies come to life.”

“And that doesn’t include sex?”

“No.”

“Doesn’t sound very romantic. A guy who won’t sleep with me? I can get that for free.”

Asha adds cream to her coffee and lets out an exasperated sigh. She does that a lot with me. My relentless cynicism wears on her hopeless-romantic sensibilities. Always has.

One time when I was eight and she was six, I was arguing with Mom about the non-existence of Santa. Asha got so upset she went through my Peter Pan coloring book and drew devil horns on everyone, even Nana the dog.

Horrible little monster.

To get back at her, I threw a whole bunch of glitter on her bedroom floor while she slept. When she woke and asked what happened, I told her Tinkerbell was so angry about her defacing Peter, she’d exploded with rage. Asha cried for a full half hour before Mom could convince her I was joking.

Needless to say, my little sister never defaced any of my property again.

“Would you ever actually pay for sex?” she asks with a contemplative expression as I load some bread into the toaster.

I think about it for a second. “It would have to be epic bangage to be worth my hard-earned cash.”

“How epic are we talking?”

“Three orgasms, guaranteed. Maybe four.”

She smiles. “There’s no way you’re getting those kinds of results with someone you don’t know.”

What she really means is someone you don’t love. She thinks that the best sex happens with people who truly care about each other. It’s one of the reasons she avoids one-night stands and harbors disdain for me having so many.

“If you didn’t know the guy,” she says with her usual condescension, “there’s no way you’d be able to relax enough to pop multiple times.”

I shrug. “I think you underestimate my ability to allow relative strangers to provide me with pleasure.”

“Oh, come on. You can’t tell me you always come.”

“Most of the time, I do.”

She looks at me in disbelief, and I can’t deny I’m fudging the truth a little. God knows, the last few men I’ve slept with have never heard about the existence of a clitoris. Or proper cunnilingus technique. Each one of them had about as much oral finesse as a bloodhound in a sausage factory.

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